First Look: 2011 McLaren MP4-12C - The Really Big Mac

Don Sherman

Cockpit furnishings feature a narrow touch screen at the top of the center console, a small-diameter steering wheel, and a reconfigurable electronic display in the compact instrument binnacle. Steering-column stalks that command the trip computer and cruise control are custom aluminum castings. An integrated pair of shift paddles rock about a central steering-column pivot point. Instead of using the mouse-and-menu approach or multiple buttons to command important systems, one knob manages chassis variables and another changes powertrain settings. Climate controls are located on the door panels.

After "driving" a virtual MP4-12C on the company's simulator for eighteen months and extensive testing of candidate shapes in a 60-percent-scale wind tunnel, McLaren personnel built two dozen prototypes for testing. The trial by fire was 1000 continuous hours (twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, for six weeks) of track testing. Verification prototypes using mainly production parts will be built next year. A planned volume of twenty cars per day in some as-yet-unconstructed manufacturing facility should yield approximately 4000 cars annually. U.S. sales are expected to account for one-quarter of the production volume.

With the Ferrari 458 dead-center in its sights, McLaren expects the MP4-12C's price to fall somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000. Follow-up projects include a convertible, a higher-performance edition patterned after theF1, and a hybrid capable of transferring current Kinetic Energy Recovery System technology from Formula 1 racetracks to the road.

Our part in this pageant is to pray that the world economy recovers so that McLaren's ambitious dreams come true.

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